The Goethe-Institut Boston and MIT Game Lab present the touring exhibition Games and Politics, which examines how computer games unfold their political potential. It explores the scope and limits of the computer game genre, constructing a counter-position within the entertainment industry with the aid of a repertoire of politically ambitious computer games from the past twelve years. This exhibit will be in the TSMC Lobby of the Stata Center (MIT Building 32) and is open from 6am to 6pm each day.
The exhibition Games and Politics covers a wide range of topics. Players experience the contingencies of political decision-making itself (Democracy III) and witness social injustices. The games address precarious labor conditions (Sunset) and gender issues (Perfect Woman), the surveillance state (Touchtone), the consequences of armed conflicts (This War of Mine), the treatment of refugees (Escape from Woomera) and revolutions against totalitarian systems (Yellow Umbrella). Adopting the characters of often-marginalized people such as a border official, housekeeper, drone pilot or war survivor, players will experience limited possibilities and negative sanctions through both the character and the game play.
“MADRID” the game developed by Uruguayan Newsgaming will also be part of the exhibition.
Newsgaming is a team of independent game developers who believe video games are not simply an amusement, this is how their website greets you: “Games and simulations can also make us think about what is going on in this world. (…) we will use games and simulations to analyze, debate, comment and editorialize major international news. Come and join us. Play with fire.” “September 12th” and “MADRID” are games with conscience. “Of course our games are biased. We do not believe in objective journalism” says Gonzalo Frasca. “We prefer games that encourage critical thinking, even if the player disagrees with our games’ ideas. Newsgaming is a word we coined for describing a genre that is currently emerging: videogames based on news events. Traditionally, videogames have focused on fantasy rather than reality, but we believe that they can be a great tool for better understanding our world. Since Newsgaming is so new, it has to find a voice of its own. Therefore, most of our games will be in part experimental.”
“September 12th” and “MADRID” are games about terror. However, they are not meant to complement each other as a unity. They simply model different aspects of a complex phenomenon. MADRID was quickly developed in a day as a reaction to the horrendous attacks in Madrid on March 11th, 2004. “We created “MADRID” as a hommage to the victims of terror, especially in Madrid, but also in all the cities that have been targeted by terrorist acts.”
When asked why “September 12th” does not explicitly show terrorist acts, Frasca answers “simulations are always limited in scope. We decided to focus this particular piece on The War on Terror’s civilian casualties since it is a subject that has not been treated in video games yet. We assumed that our players are intelligent enough to realize that any form of terrorism is always despicable”.
“September 12th,” titled for the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, shows an Arab town where you can see civilians and terrorists. The player controls a mobile target and when he clicks the mouse, a missile falls in the designated area. The problem is that indiscriminate casualties occur and, in response, you can see and hear the grievances of pain among the population. Then life goes on and if it is fired again, the operation is repeated.
It is played with dolls that are not especially realistic, there is no punctuation, in fact not only know for sure who fires, but what you see on the screen refers to the real images that show us daily television news.
“Madrid” is even more minimalist and, because of the theme it plays, probably opens a brand new genre in video games. A black screen is illuminated with dozens of candles carried by virtual demonstrators. The name of Madrid and other cities that have suffered terrorist attacks are prominent in their T-shirts. The player has to click repeatedly on each of the candles so that they do not go out. A simple game that leaves the user time to think about the meaning of what one is doing.
“The original idea behind ‘September 12th’ is that violence leads to more violence.” You try to kill terrorists, but you kill civilians. “Other civilians mourn his death and some become terrorists. After a minute playing, the screens ends up full of terrorists, “explains Gonzalo Frasca. Frasca, which is also part of the Computer Games Research Center at the University of Copenhagen, confirms that more than 200,000 players have already used “September 12th”. And about “Madrid” explains: “We have tried to address the emotional side of the issue and show that a video game can be a complement to the news in the 21st century, playing a role similar to the comic strips in paper newspapers” .
The team behind Newsgaming currently focuses its goals on the internet, a medium in which it is easier to publish and become known internationally, but does not rule out giving in the future the jump to ambitious and complex video games. “There is an emerging movement of what we could call games with conscience. In addition to transmitting political messages, we also proselytize in favor of video games, trying to show that they can contribute artistic and critical elements of utility in understanding our reality,” says Gonzalo Frasca.
Games and Politics comes to Boston as part of a world tour which started in November 2016 in Mexico and Korea. After this third stop in the United States, the exhibition will continue on to nineteen more countries including Brazil, Russia, Iran, Palestine, Nigeria, India, and Vietnam well into 2019.
The exhibition is accompanied by Art Games, a series of eight 48-hour game jams around the world where game developers, programmers, artists, musicians and other creatives come together to develop computer games. The winning games will be presented in Germany in mid-2018. The Boston edition takes place May 19-21 at the Goethe-Institut Boston in Back Bay.
To apply to participate, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit http://www.goethe.de/artgames.
This exhibition is organized by the Goethe-Institut in cooperation with the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien in Karlsruhe
Gonzalo Frasca, lead designer and producer. In addition to developing and playing games, Frasca is also a videogame researcher and the editor of Ludology.org, an academic online resource for videogame studies. He currently runs Powerful Robot, a game studio.
Sofía Battegazzore, art director. Battegazzore has an art and design background and she has an extensive career in game development. A color specialist, she spends countless hours experimenting until she finds the right palette for each game.
Nicolás Olhaberry, programmer and designer. Olhaberry has an encyclopedic knowledge of almost every single game that has ever been published (no kidding!) His dream is that Macromedia releases a more game-friendly version of Flash and Director. When he is not developing games, he is working on Atari 2600 emulators.
Pepe Infantozzi, animator and illustrator. One of the most talented Uruguayan animators, Infantozzi has produced several award-winning films and videos. He has recently joined the videogame production world and became a passionate gamer.
Fabián Rodriguez, animator, illustrator and graphic designer. Rodríguez is a multi-talented designer who edits “Guacho!”, one of the most original South American comics magazines. His Flash animations have been featured on MTV.
Federico Balbi, photographer and assistant. A promising Uruguayan young photographer, Balbi has an eye for detail that shows in every game he works on.